Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Mexico, Day 4: Tunnels, and Ladders, and Salsa

On our last full day in New Mexico, my wife and I wanted to visit the preserved ruins of the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. At the hotel, the man who drives guests out to their cars on the shuttle bus suggested that we take a different route than we were originally planning. He pointed us toward the Jemez Mountains.

We have seen many interesting and beautiful sights in New Mexico. I am coming to understand that the term ‘scenic route’ may be redundant as there is beauty in most every place we go. But, our latest drive topped them all.

We went to a place called the Gilman Tunnels. Blasted out of the rocks along the gorge of the Rio Guadalupe River, the tunnels were created in the 1920s for logging trains. The trains have long since stopped running, and car traffic to the tunnels is extremely sparse with its remote location and the fact that it is not mentioned in any of the guidebooks we have.
The drive to get to the tunnels is spectacular. And of all the natural beauty we have seen on this trip, this is the one that excited Kai the most. Our son loves tunnels of all kinds, and to see some on the side of a mountain got him revved up. He couldn’t wait to get out of the car and walk into the tunnels to see them up close.

After the tunnels, we stopped at Jemez State Monument, the site of a former Pueblo Indian village and Spanish Mission. As with our visit to the Taos Pueblo, a trail guide was the key to our being able to see entire place. Kai led us methodically from points 1 to 24, with our highlight being number 4, an example of a Kiva, an underground home of the Pueblos.

Making these stops along the way, we didn’t arrive at our original destination of Bandalier until early afternoon. But Kai didn’t pester us with questions about when we would get there, at least not as much as when we made the drive to Taos a couple days earlier. Though he was thinking about the periodic table again and kept asking us what our fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth favorite elements were.

At Bandalier, we had a quick lunch and then hiked the main loop trail. Fortunately, Bandelier also marks their trails with numbers. We saw the stone wall remains of the ancestral Pueblos’ village plaza. The highlight of the walk, though, was seeing the cave homes dug out of the cliff walls. You have to climb on ladders to go inside these dwellings. We saw some young children having difficulty, but Kai, surprisingly, eagerly sprang up each one.

In the evening, we went out for one last New Mexican dinner. Overall, Kai did remarkably well in the restaurants we went to on the trip. Well, there was one time in Taos where he started yelling that it was a bad restaurant because their salsa was too spicy for his liking. But, otherwise, he did well.

I must say that Mexican/New Mexican restaurants are becoming my favorite places to eat out with Kai. At most restaurants, the wait for our food is always an issue. But, at these places, the immediate delivery of chips and salsa to the table keeps Kai occupied and happy.

At this particular restaurant, El Pinto, they sell jars of salsa and taco sauce to take home. Kai was intently eyeing them as we were waiting for our table. When we finished dinner and were about to leave, the hostess came up to us and gave us a free jar of the salsa to bring home because Kai had been so interested in it earlier.

Tunnels in gorges, ladders to cave homes, and free salsa; it was an A+ day.

Tomorrow: Going home

To read about our trip from the beginning, go to the first post.

Photos of our trip can be found on our Facebook page.

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